First announced in 2013, Let It Die is a game that oozes style, and a game that could have only been imagined by Grasshopper Manufacture and Suda51 (Goichi Suda). It is a game that until recently, despite enjoying my play sessions with, I did not fully understand. I got to spend some more time with the game at the GungHo offices in Los Angles, California, and from what I have seen, it is a free-to-play game that people should be excited to dive into.
Jumping into Let It Die, I was pleasantly surprised at how much it felt like a AAA release. There was a clear narrative that, although ridiculous, had a style and compelling charm that made me want to know more. From the minute the game starts in the dark, dirty and almost off-putting aesthetic of the Tower of Barbs, it is clear that the world of Let It Die is a brutal place—from minute one, you know it will be a challenge.
Let It Die is a game that is more than the sum of its parts. On the surface, the game feels as if it was inspired by the Souls series out of From Software. The brutal combat, visceral weapon choices, and difficulty all reminded me of what it was like to first jump into Demon’s Souls back on the PS3. There is also something in the design and the way the concepts are executed that is iconic of Grasshopper.
The mix between brutal darkness and the absurd nature of everything brings a fresh concept to the genre and one that I did not see myself enjoying as much as I did. The moment I met the skateboarding Grim Reaper who calls you Senpai during the first minutes of the game, I knew I would be in for a treat. The dichotomy between the brutality and the silliness of everything makes the overall experience a joy to play, and I found myself wanting to dive deeper into the world to find out what was really going on.
I asked the game director for Let It Die, Hideyuki Shin, about this mix of dark and absurd aesthetics. As he explained, Let It Die “is either really dark or really stupid. We made it so that you can look at it from different angles and your experience but some elements are just flat out ridiculous.” He went on to say that “for some reason, putting them together balances each [other] out and felt like a really good combination of dark and light tones.”
Even after a few hours with the game, I could tell you next to nothing about the story or what was going on with the characters. It is an obtuse game that will take hours of playtime to fully understand, and that is honestly part of the fun. It is a game that dangles just the right amount of information to keep you hungry for the next piece of the puzzle. Suda51 and the team at Grasshopper have done a magnificent job building one of the most compelling narrative driven free-to-play games I have ever played.
At the start of the Let It Die, players take control of one of a selection of nameless bodies armed with nothing more than the underthings they start with. Players must then make their way through the Tower of Barbs. Death is there to greet you and give you the basics of how to play. From this point on players are more or less on their own. There are NPC’s that will gladly help out, for a fee, but beyond that, they must find a way to make it through the levels of the tower, level up their character, and gain weapons—all without dying in the process.
It is worth noting that despite the AAA feel of Let It Die, this will be a free-to-play game in which players will be able to have a fun and rewarding experience even without spending a dime, Let It Die feels very similar to the Souls series, especially in the way player death is treated. Once players die, their body is lost until they go and retrieve it. All the levels, items, etc. that would have been on the body are lost until players go back and recover them.
There is an option to select a new body and start fresh, but should players want to gain everything back, they will have to go and kill their body to collect their things. By spending money, this tedious part can be skipped. It will take the in-game currency to do so, and with the frequency of death, this could get expensive—but the option is always there.
It is this level of choice; that makes Let It Die an exciting experience. Yes, it has transactions should you choose to take advantage of them, but they never take away from the achievements you get with the game. Overcoming a monster, or building the next great item are all part of a rewarding gameplay loop and the team at Grasshopper have managed this masterfully.
“There are a lot of things in the game that are going to be able to give you that sense of achievement,” Explained Hideyuki Shin.
“Throughout the game, because it is a Grasshopper title, we do have boss fights about. They are pretty rough. Mid-bosses are pretty rough. Big boss battles are even more so. So we encourage players to get stronger and keep strengthening yourself to really get past it but there might be time when you’re so close, and you use a Death Metal [the in Game Currency] so you can continue just to be like, ‘great, I beat him’. You really get that feeling of achievement.”
“There is no point in the game that we’ve made that we feel like we are forcing players to monetize. We did not have in mind that we want players to like, we are going to make it this hard so that they have to monetize. We do not ever want to make players feel like they are forced to monetize, but it’s really up to the players skill and how much time that they are willing to put into it. So based on how much time you put into it. So either if you want to cut the time by crafting and monetizing there or if it’s just going to be like ‘I almost beat the boss, monetize and that last hit kill him’. That might be hard a bit but really it’s just up to the player and how they want to play the game via skill. How much time they want to put into it. But just to really feel like they’re really getting into the game, but there are some places that there is monetization there but we really don’t want to force it down people’s throats.”
The cost of upgrades and storage is also a way Grasshopper has restricted progress. The player character has a limited number of slots to carry items, and these items quickly become invaluable to progress. As players traverse the Tower of Barbs, they will find resources and items that can be used to build new weapons, or used to defend themselves. With the limited number of slots players start with, they will need to constantly go back to home base just to unload. Spending some of the Death Metals can speed up this process.
“Each character has a different amount of slots, but the express pass will expand that. While you have your membership running, you will get these special skill decals that will increase your experience or boost some other points that you obtain.” Shin goes on to explain, “There’s no buying additional content in that sense because we don’t want to bore players.”
Due to the depth of Let It Die, I have only scratched the surface of what players can expect when they first boot up the game, and we will have full details in our upcoming review upon release. Despite the price tag, Let It Die is a deep, interesting descent into insanity and one that I enjoyed throughout my playthrough. From the crazy characters to the unique 80’s arcade aesthetic, Suda51 and Grasshopper have built something that should keep players busy for hours on end.
Let It Die is a game that I was not expecting to be so excited about going in. Yet, after my time with the game, I am more excited than ever. It is not a game that will appeal to everyone, but if you are a fan of the Souls series, or just love the games that come out of Grasshopper, Let It Die may be something worth looking into. The team have built something that manages story, fun and monetization well. It is hard to say if this holds true though the full experience, but from the time I have put in so far, I am pleasantly surprised. Let It Die will be available exclusively for the PlayStation 4 and is being published by GungHo Entertainment.